October 29, 2018

2018 Laser Master World Championships (Dublin, Ireland)

By Doug

On a rare day that was not windy.

At the 2018 Laser Master Worlds, we met again to do battle. My GGM fleet is one of the smallest with just 16 competitors but between them they have won 22 world championships in 4 different classes.

I trained hard for this Worlds, spending a total of 157 hours on the water and more than 7 hours on my hiking bench. The best part of my training was attending Brett Beyer’s downwind clinic at the ISA, and that part paid big dividends.

But most of the other training was on my own on a small Dallas lake, and this is no longer a winning combination. The best in my fleet were race-hardened, had better upwind speed, and either lived in the conditions that we sailed in or were basically full-time sailors. In my opinion, that’s what it will take to win a Master Worlds from now on.

The decision to attend Brett’s pre-worlds clinic was a good one as it helped get a feeling for practicing with other good sailors, but the conditions for the actual Worlds were very different.

Day 1: The forecast was 15-25, but it maxed out over 30. Like all of the days that followed, the temperatures rarely got to 60F (15C).

Race 1: Pam was on the finishing boat and when she was leaving the harbor it was gusting up to 25. Once on the course, the race committee apparently considered sending us in. The GGMs were the last to start and I missed the shift and was at the wrong boat end and not the pin. Ouch. Tried to play shifts to catch up but left paid. Wolfgang Gerz (GER) was leading at the first mark but could not quite round it (current?) and stalled out, losing several places. Mark Bethwaite (AUS) took the lead while I rounded 8th. We’re sailing the inner trapezoid and are close to shore, so it was playing survival vs. playing the small waves. I chose the former. The positions did not change until the second run when the gusts started to hit 30. At the bottom of the second run I jibed, lost control and flipped. Finished 8th. Mark has been training for several months in Europe and won in his usual impressive style.

Race 2: Pin favored and a good start there and surprisingly I rolled Mark as we went left. It was close at the first mark with Wolfgang again leading. Rounded 3rd. On the run, we were hit by a monster puff and I dared not bear off but just tried to stay upright. Ended 200 meters off the rhumb line which cost several places as others were better at managing the hard, cold breeze. At the bottom mark, Wolfgang had a good lead going left and I again tried to play the shifts to move up. On one tack my boat stalled because of really tight vang and I went into irons. I jumped into the water to swim the boat around onto port but it slowly tipped on top of me. Lost more places (note to self – in irons, let the vang off). On the top reach and run things for me were survival conditions, and several of the leaders tipped on the run (Mark once and Wolfgang four times). Pam was watching from the finish boat taking videos and lots of people were tipping just trying cross the line. I finished a poor 9th just behind Mark. On the way in getting to the ramp was challenging with the offshore breeze and I tipped two more times in the harbor. It was cold and Mark said that he was close to being hypothermic. Many seasoned sailors commented that this was the toughest conditions they had sailed in. And there was lots more wind in the forecast.

Day 2: The temperature remained in the 50’s and the wind built from the forecasted 15 to one gust that was recorded at 35. My GGM fleet was on the water for 5 hours.

Race 3: Being close to shore, there were some pretty big shifts and the wind went right just before the start, so I squeezed between Mark and the committee boat to get away cleanly. Played a few shifts but had problems tacking with the really tight vang (note to  self, let the vang off before tacking in a gust). The GMs were on the same course and we had to thread through the 62 boats coming down the run and many were out of control, so it was crazy. My speed was about the same as Mark with him footing and me pointing a little higher in the waves. Rounded in 5th with Wolfgang again leading. The positions were unchanged until the bottom of the second run. Where we rounded in a hard gust and I did not have time to get set up with tighter controls for the bottom reach. It was a screamer and being way over powered allowed John Dawson-Edwards (CAN) and Alan Keen (RSA) to pass below me, so I finished 7th just behind Mark, John and Alan. Being better prepared could have saved me 3 points.

Race 4: It was now very pin favored so I started 3 up with Wolfgang and Mark below. There was no line sight because the open North Sea and clouds were all gray, so it was one of those hope-I-was-not-over starts. We went left until Wolfgang below said “let’s tack” so the three of us led the fleet on a long port tack to the mark where Mark, Wolfgang, and I rounded in a tight group. On the run, Wolfgang caught a few more waves and rounded in the lead. The wind was still left so it was a long port tack to the second windward mark. Our positions were unchanged. The top reach was another screamer and I buried to bow to fill up the cockpit which allowed Michael Hicks (GBR) to catch up. On the run, he was still gaining and went left so, trying something different, I jibed to sail by the lee. Our speed was very similar and he got me on mark room at the bottom of the run. I tried to pass but he defended well, so it was Wolfgang, Mark, Michael, and then me at the finish.

Day 3: Groundhog day with the same conditions – temperatures trying to reach 60F (15C), gusts in the 30’s, and Wolfgang wining 2 more races

Race 5: The leaders chose to start at the boat but I was sure that the pin was favored so I headed there. It was strange to start so far away from the best sailors in our fleet. Started at the pin and waited for the 2 on my hip to tack before tacking onto a big lift. Saw the rest of the fleet in the window of my sail… life is good so far. We weaved through the other fleet coming down on a run and I rounded a close second behind Charles Campion (GBR). Using the technique I learned at Brett’s downwind clinic, I passed him to take the lead, but the series leader Wolfgang pulled even with me (he too was at the downwind clinic). He took the right gate and I took the left. Playing the shifts, I crossed Wolfgang and he tracked to cover me on starboard. His speed was better and at the mark, Wolfgang, Charles, and Michael Hicks (GBR) were ahead at the top of the second beat. We stayed even on the top reach and I used Brett’s downwind techniques on the final run to pass Michael to finish 3rd, my best race of the event.

Race 6: Pin favored this time with the entire fleet, started 5 up with Mark and Wolfgang at the pin. I seemed to be out of phase compared with others and rounded 7th. On the run, had really good speed and passed both Alan and Mark. At the bottom of the run with big waves, people were taking the right gate to avoid jibing. Mark was close behind and inside, so I called “you have room” and prepared to round quite wide. But there was no Mark, just a loud sailing term that starts with the letter “f” (later learned that he buried the bow, filled with water, and had an unplanned jibe). On the long starboard tack to the left, I tried something that Brett suggested – hard vang and footing through the waves but for me it did not work and I could not point. At the top mark, was even with Alan and he led at the end of the top reach. Still in 6th. On the second run, things got hairy – in one gust, a wave hit me and I was knocked out of the boat. With my toes still in the hiking strap, I was dragged in the water trying to get back into the boat. Neither bearing off to get speed nor pulling in the mainsheet to head up gave me enough pressure on the centerboard to get in. After several gulps of sea water and what seemed like about a minute, I was able to get going again. Exhausted and in second to last, I took it easy to the finish. Still in 8th place overall, dragging my butt cost me 3 points and 2 places in the standings.

Day 4: A little sunnier and the top gust was just 30.

Race 7: With two minutes to go, I pulled really hard on the downhaul and… it broke. It took 5 minutes to fix so I got to watch this race.

Race 8: Was pin favored with Mark, Wolfgang, and me starting there. After a few minutes, Jorge Abreu (DOM) started to roll me, so I tacked. The long port tack took us close to the mark and the boats that went left rounded ahead, so I as in 7th. On the run, I pulled even with Mark who took the left gate while I took the right. Half way up the second beat, he would have crossed me but instead tacked onto port in front. We were slamming into the waves and Mark, according to Brett, is one of the best at steering through them. So I watched as he pulled about 8 boat lengths ahead. At the starboard tack layline, he tacked and I followed. And then something happened that neither of us could later figure out – I out pointed him so that he had to put in two additional tacks to round just behind me. We stayed even on the top reach and then he tried to pass on the run by going to windward of me and then carving back to the right. Using some of the techniques learned from Brett, I was able to hold him off on the run and then bottom reach. Finished 5th but back on shore learned that I was over the line at the start and was scored UFD. Normally I’d be disappointed with a DNC and UFD for the day, but I’m not in the running and am pleased with my new downwind speed that Brett taught me.

Day 5: Rain and then clearing, top gust 28

Race 9: Started close to the pin, went left, and hit the first shift. As with most races, the fleet stayed together. I played some shifts and took the lead on the port tack layline with a tight group rounding just behind. On the run, Wolfgang pulled even and was heading straight for the downwind gate. Looking upwind, there was pressure on the left and the tight group was going to miss it, so I moved downwind of the pressure and Mark followed. But as we learned several times, some of the pressure never comes and we both lost 7 places!! Note to self – stay with the leaders! We tried to catch them but they had too much speed in these conditions.

Race 10: Started again close to the pin and started to get rolled, so tacked. Worked the middle of the course and got even with the front row. But being tired with the really tight vang, my life jacket caught on the boom and I tipped again. Once up again, was 50 meters behind the front row that had good speed and stayed in phase, so was unable to catch them. Finished 10.

Day 6: Very light conditions from the south and not offshore. Lots of current.

Race 11: The fleet started at the committee boat, tacked, and went right. I footed under Mark to take the lead and then he tacked onto starboard. The fleet followed and Mark had a huge lead as we fought the current in a dying breeze before the race was abandoned.

There was a long delay and the current was taking us from the race area back to the harbor where we would have to de-rig, return our charger boats, have them inspected, and then prepare for the closing ceremonies. As the 3:00 deadline approached, there was one more fleet before us and it got away a few minutes before the deadline, so most of us decided to keep heading back to the harbor. We later learned that our fleet had in fact started after 3:00 with just 5 boats on the line. Mark, Wolfgang, and I were not one of them.

With a breakdown, UFD, and DNS, this was not one of my best Worlds, but there was lots to learn from. What worked:
  • Attending Brett’s downwind and pre-worlds clinics really helped with downwind speed and race planning.
  • Pam had been well-prepared for the cold weather.
  • The equipment, help launching, and event management were all excellent.
  • My conditioning was good, that was not the problem.
Areas for improvement:
  • Practicing a few hours each week on Dallas lakes will no longer work. This may sound obvious, but the best practice is in the conditions of the event. Those that did had the best finishes in our fleet.
  • My upwind speed use to be good, but needs a lot more work.
  • Relying on the compass rather than sticking with the fleet was a mistake. I also think that it’s time to switch to one of the new digital compasses.

October 05, 2018

Laser Master Worlds de-brief

Brett Beyer just won his 13th Laser Master Worlds and would like to share how he did it and what he learned. For those who saw how dominant Brett was, the following from Brett will be of interest...

I am looking at doing the Skype de-brief next Tuesday 9th October, 6am Sydney time. Cost will be A$120pp and last approx 2 hours.

If you cannot make this time, please indicate a future preference time and if there’s enough interest in Europe and USA then we can align with these times and do a separate session.

The skype format will largely be Q&A based with some supporting material that I will distribute to the group.

Just send email to confirm attendance. beyersailing@gmail.com

October 04, 2018

Bill Symes: Radial Great Grand Masters World Champion 2018

Bill Symes had a great regatta at the recent Laser Master Worlds in Ireland. The International Sailing Academy’s Colin Gowland interviewed with Bill on how we won, as you’ll see below.

Colin and the ISA’s Vaughn Harrison are working on a podcast with topics that include going faster in waves upwind, what's it like at the Olympics on the first day, how to break through sticking points/progression barriers, mental game aspects, etc. These guys can help everyone improve so watch for them on Facebook and Instagram.

Colin: Hi, Bill.
Bill:  Hey, Colin. How are you doing?
Colin: I’m doing great. How are you? You had a good trip/regatta?
Bill:  Oh, yeah. Yeah, it was great. The Worlds Regatta was great and then we spent a week touring around. We went to Northern Ireland and stayed at this cool little pub called The Brown Trout. Just did a little bit of rest and recovery for three or four days. And then we came back down to Dublin and spent the last three days in Dublin, just rocking out with the crowds. That place is party central.
Colin: Really?
Bill:  Unbelievable. Yeah.
Colin: That’s phenomenal. I went there on a rugby tour in my youth. Was a great experience on and off the field.
Bill:  Oh, yeah. It’s a fun town.
Colin: Bill, what are you, a great grand master now?
Bill:  Yeah. I’m half way through my great grand masterhood. 71-years-old, loving every minute of it.
Colin: Was it a challenge to keep the body holding together during all that sailing?
Bill:  Amazingly enough I felt really good throughout the whole thing. It was a really windy regatta. The first three days especially it averaged around 20 with puffs around 30 and very shifty, puffy, challenging conditions. I don’t know why but I felt really good. My energy level was high, my strength held up, and I just put it down to the fact that I trained more than 20 days in the gorge this summer, a lot of it was with Andrew Holdsworth. He moved to Seattle in August so he was coming down here every weekend and we were sailing two or three days out in the Gorge in almost the exact same condition that we had in Dublin. He’s younger, very fit and very fast in a breeze. (Andrew finished 4th in the Radial Masters Division at Worlds) It was windy, shifty, puffy. The sea state was very similar, big, short, chop. I think that by the end of August I had a pretty good comfort level in those conditions.
Colin: What was your game plan? Did you have a speed advantage out there? It looked like you had some pretty dominant results. To me, just looking at that score card that’s what I would think right away. Did you feel like you had an advantage in boat speed? Or did you have the strategy wired? Or did you just sail consistently? What was your secret to success or was it a mix of everything?
Bill:  I did have a bit of a boat speed advantage. You know what they say about how boat speed makes you look smart. It made it easy for me to execute everything I needed to do. I was always able to get off the line clear. I was usually able to get on to the lifted tack right away and that was my game plan.
It was basically to try and get clear starts, get onto the right tack, and then just cover the fleet. In most races that’s what happened. I was able to kind of jump out if not into the lead at least into the first group and stay there to the weather mark. I had a pretty big speed advantage down wind so if I wasn’t first at the weather mark I was usually first at the leeward mark. I think that, especially in the Great Grandmasters fleet, the top guys are pretty fast but a lot of guys are just in survival mode. I mean, it was blowing pretty hard and the downwinds were pretty crazy, but I was used to that from my training in the Gorge. I mean, that’s the conditions we sail in so I felt very comfortable. I was still racing, doing my turns and going for more and more speed downwind. I think that made a lot of difference.
Colin: You live in Portland so your home venue really is the Gorge. That’s got to be a massive advantage given all the training you did this summer… and over past years.
Bill:  It certainly was for this venue because the conditions in Dublin turned out to be very, very similar to what I sail in here.
Colin: Usually when you look at successful sailors in big breeze, they are typically either the biggest or the fittest or both. You don’t do much traditional fitness outside of sailing, right? You just go sail in big breeze and that’s sort of your formula?
Bill:  Pretty much. I’m not real big on going to the gym or doing any kind of fitness specific exercise. I’ll ride the bike as much as I can, try to work on some aerobic fitness, but mostly I just sail.
Colin: Right. Do you put together sort of an annual plan about how your sailings going to go for the whole year with the World’s as a goal, or is it just something you start thinking about a few months before?
Bill: I have a goal and a rough game plan which, as you know, it’s to spend two or three weeks in Mexico in the spring to jump start my training program. Then, I have a goal of doing 80 days on the water which I reached – just. (sailed my 80th day the day before Worlds!)
Colin: 80 days, how did you come up with that number?
Bill:  That’s just a rule of thumb that I’ve developed over the years that if I can sail that much especially in challenging conditions I will definitely… well maybe not definitely… but I will generally have reached the level of hiking fitness and sailing confidence that I need going into Worlds. I mean, it’s worked for me over the last few years and so that’s kind of the recipe I follow.
Colin: Yeah. And then, you said you did some training in the spring. What about November, December, January, and February?
Bill:  I don’t do much. Between now and the new year I probably won’t sail too much. Maybe here in Portland. We have a Sunday race with our local fleet, Sunday series. I’ll do that stuff just for fun but I won’t do any serious training until spring. That usually starts with March or April in Mexico.
Colin: It’s interesting. I mean, I think since probably you were young you’ve probably been getting good results in sailing but my observation over the last four years, is that you’re still getting better. I don’t know if you feel like you are or not. You mentioned in a past interview that the learning is something that keeps you coming back and having fun with it. Can you just speak to that and if you feel like you’re still making progress at 71 years old, knowing all that you know already?
Bill:  Definitely. I think I’m sailing better now than I probably have in my life. Of course, the problem you have as you get older, is it’s like walking up the down escalator. You have to run faster and faster just to stay even. Yeah, I just wish I had known what I know now back when I had the body of a 20-year-old. Aside from just being competitive, I find it enjoyable again because I am making gains in my sailing speed, especially downwind. I think in the last couple of years the coaching that I’ve gotten from Vaughn and from Brett and yourself has just made a huge difference in the way I sail downwind, and I’ve practiced those techniques a lot – I’ve spent a lot of time in the Gorge just working on that. It has definitely made a difference. Plus it’s fun. it’s made Laser sailing more fun because I’m more comfortable in the boat in more conditions and I just really enjoy sailing it that way.
Colin: You’ve been around the Master’s fleets at your home club and internationally and seen a lot of guys train down here. If you were their coach and they were the average master sailor, let’s just say, what kind of advice would you give them in terms of should they do to be successful? Replicate more or less your plan like training 80 days at minimum? How should they do go about it? Do they identify weaknesses, they get coaching, do they just go race? What do you think is the best strategy for them?
Bill:  I don’t really know any other way to do it than the way I do it, and so I would recommend that. The base of my program is lots of sailing; not just sailing, but training in good breeze and just logging the hours. I don’t race that much. I used to try and hit all the big regattas, I don’t do that anymore. This year I just hit a couple. I did a couple of winter regattas down in California, I did the Master’s North Americans in San Francisco and I did the Laser PCC’s in the gorge and just a couple of other local regattas in the Northwest. I don’t travel that much, not as much as I used to.
Bill:  This is not to say that it isn’t important to sail in big competitions, because it is. But I don’t think that has helped me as much as just the training I do with a couple of fast training partners. I’ve been lucky to have Andrew living in Seattle now, and also Rob Hodson and Dave Jursik, a couple of other local guys who were also training for Worlds in the Gorge.
We just go out and beat each other up out there and that has, I think, helped me more than traveling around to all the big regattas. You know, you’ll find a lot of guys that take sort of the opposite track and try to hit all the big regattas. I’m sure there’s a lot of value to that, especially for improving starting skills, because that’s the only way to really practice starting.
Bill:  But you know, I think I’m a pretty strong starter anyway. I don’t feel like that’s a huge weakness, but certainly going to the big regattas helps that part of your game.
Colin: Yeah.
Bill:  I mostly focus, my focus the last few years has just been on boat speed. I figure if I’m confident in my boat speed, that pretty much takes care of all the other issues.
Colin: Right, yeah. Yeah, it is a race after all.
Bill:  Yeah, [laughs].
Colin: I guess when you say, maybe you don’t do so many regattas, but you do training, and you said focusing on boat speed with good training partners, but, what do you do? What do you guys … When you go out to train let’s say, what do you do out there?
Bill:  We do focus drills, kind of like you do at ISA. We will do lineups, upwind lineups. This summer, Andrew and I did a lot of reaching because we both felt that was an area we needed to strengthen. We did a lot of heavy air reaching, and I definitely improved in that area as a result. We worked on trim and sail controls. We practiced different vang tensions, different downhaul and outhaul tensions, different trims, different ways of steering through the waves.
Colin: Yea that deliberate practice is something we really promote here. What else?
Bill:  We just banged away at it. We’d reach across the river, we’d stop, and regroup, and reach across the river again. We’d do this nine or ten times in a practice. Like I say, we do the upwind lineups, we do short racing, we do lots of long downwinds. We do like five mile downwinds going through the different wave conditions in the Gorge. You’ve got short mostly flat water at the top of the run, and then as you get down – actually upriver, but downwind – you get into much bigger, almost oceanic waves. We had a range of conditions, a range of wind speeds. The training went up and down, and up and down. We did a little bit of starting practice, focusing on acceleration and holding a lane, we pretty much try to practice all the fundamentals.
Colin: Yeah, it sounds like pretty productive session. I think what a lot of guys tend to do is go out once every couple weeks in the spring/summer/fall, probably that’s being generous, and then they go out and just race on Sunday, and do six, seven races, whatever it is, and come back in. You look at those fleets, and who’s at the top, and who’s at the bottom, and who’s in the middle, and it’s very rare to see much of a mix up over a period of years with that kind of approach. I think this is because mostly everyone is sailing the exact same way they have in the past focusing on “strategy/tactics” when there is still so much boatspeed and boathandling available for them to learn.
Bill:  Yeah, I think you nailed it with that analysis. It’s common to see that mentality in Laser fleets.
Colin: I understand you have a new winter residence now?
Bill:  Yeah!
Colin: That’s great. Why did you decide to set that up?
Bill:  Well, as you know, we’ve been coming down there for the last three or four years and training at ISA. I just find the clinics enormously helpful and enormously fun. My wife, Laura-Lee, has fallen in love with the town of La Cruz. It’s just a nice environment. It’s a beautiful site, right on the north shore of Banderas Bay. I don’t know, we’ve always sort of had it in the back of our mind, that it would be nice to have a winter getaway spot, because in Portland, Oregon in January and February can be pretty bleak.
That just seemed like the perfect spot. It’s warm, it’s beautiful, it’s close to great Laser sailing. The quality of the sailing is fantastic. It’s affordable.
It’s certainly easier to buy a beach front residence in La Cruz than it is in Oregon or California.
Colin: No kidding. We’re really happy that you made that decision and that we’ll get to see more of you down here, and do a bunch more training together and whatnot. It’s really awesome, congratulations. I’d expect to see more dedicated sailors making similar investments as the years go on.
Bill:  Yeah, we’re looking forward to it.
Colin: How many clinics did you sail last year at ISA to prep for Worlds?
Bill:  I think I did two in Mexico.
Bill:  And one in the Gorge, or most of one in the Gorge. I also had that little half session in the summer with you and Jonathan Sherretz.
Colin: Yeah, that’s right.
Bill:  Which, you know, it was a really good year for me in terms of sailing in Mexico. We just had a lot of opportunity to get down there and conditions were great. Even the last one in June we had good conditions.
Colin: That was nice, people don’t know necessarily that our wind can stay really nice here all the way through July.
Bill:  That was great. I really look forward to more of that in the future.
Colin: What do you think beyond what you do just training on your own, what do you think what is the value in the clinics that you attend here?
Bill:  I think it has pushed me to think about Laser sailing in new ways, think about Laser sailing in new ways. You know, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and I’ve been doing this off and on since the ’70s. It’s (attending clinics) forced me to take a much deeper dive into how to sail a Laser, and what are the factors that you need to be considering to make it go faster.
I learned a lot from Vaughn, who really sort of brought home how important apparent wind is. I always, I think most competitive sailors understand apparent wind, and think about it when they’re sailing, but he has really helped me understand how important it is, and how you can use it in the way you think about sail trim, and angle, and all that.
Colin: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bill:  I think that was a big breakthrough for me. And clearly the downwind stuff, Vaughn’s technique varies a little bit from Brett Beyers, but I think both of them have helped me to develop a better understanding of how to sail the boat downwind. Vaughn’s emphasis on creating the energy through turning, and Brett’s just a little more nuanced I think, just pressuring up the rig, and then using that pressure to take it down to the wave angle. Those are techniques that have really changed my whole sailing style, and in many ways forced me to break the old mold and learn a new one.
Colin: Yeah it’s nice to have different coaches giving perspectives on technique. You mentioned the conditions here which are obviously a nice thing. What about the other people training and sort of a camaraderie of it? Do you enjoy that part, or are you more just down to put your nose to the grindstone and get your training in? What’s your perspective on that aspect?
Bill:  Definitely I value the friendships and the relationships that I get through Laser sailing. Really, that’s what keeps me coming back to Laser Master Worlds, more than anything, is just that I’ve gotten to be so close to that group of guys that I would hate to miss it. It’s like our annual party. Most of these guys I only see once a year, and this is our opportunity to get together, socialize, eat and drink together, and just have a great time. It’s wonderful.
Colin: It seems like those friendships, really, they go pretty deep. It seems like a really important aspect particularly in Master sailing, but you see it in all types of sailing.
Bill:  Oh yeah, yeah, you see it in all different classes, and different kinds of competition, in Masters and open competition. The Laser Masters, is in particular, is really just an extraordinary group of people. These are guys, most of whom have been sailing all their lives in one boat or another. Many of them have achieved very high success in the Olympics or World Championships. The level of competition is still very high, but competition isn’t the only reason they’re there. We hang out together after the races. We’re able to have a beer and enjoy ourselves…
which is a little different than it was when we were sailing in the open fleet – there wasn’t so much of that aprés sailing fun going on.
Colin: Aprés sailing fun you say. Any funny anecdotes from the worlds? Anything notable that happened that you wish to tell?
Bill:  Funny, tragic maybe. In the third race and the 10th race, I don’t see very well and when I’m sailing in those conditions I can’t wear glasses, because it they get too messed up with the spray. So I have trouble seeing the marks. In the 4th race, I had a pretty good lead coming around the leeward mark, and going up to the second weather mark, I couldn’t find it. I sailed a little far off to the left, and the next thing you know I rounding a mark, but it turned out I was on the outer loop of the trapezoid course when I was supposed to be on the inner loop.
Colin: Good strategy. [laughs]
Bill:  Weather mark when I should have been going to the inner. I turned a first into a 29th in that race. I thought, “Oh, okay, I’ve burned my throw out, I’ve made my big mistake, I won’t make that mistake again.” Then in the 10th race, I had another situation where I was leading after the second beat, I took off on a screaming, fire-hose-in-the-face reach, but again I couldn’t see the marks, didn’t know where I was going, and wound up heading for the leeward mark instead of the reach mark. By the time I got back in the boat race, I was 20th(which I had to keep in my score). With two more races to go, I was pretty sure I’d snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. That was not a happy night.
This is what happens when you get old and feeble. Your faculties start deserting you. Boat speed was great, but the brain power was a little bit impaired.
Colin: I’m not sure what kind of training we can do for that one Bill. Maybe some compass work! I wonder if it was too much Guinness the night before? Any wild antics from the streets of Dublin, or are those all sworn to secrecy?
Bill:  Well, some of that’s classified, but all I can say is a very good time was had by all. We usually gather together in informal mobs and go out on the town and eat and drink until the wee hours. We did not skimp on the social side of things. It was a lot of fun.
Colin: Sounds like these masters sailors know how to do it right! It’s a great community, and we’re always happy to have our masters sailors training hard and having fun here at ISA too. All right Bill, thanks for taking the time. I think we covered some good ground here. I look forward to seeing you soon down in Mexico for some training and relaxing in the near future!
Bill:  Yeah, thanks Colin, we’ll see you soon.

September 14, 2018

Laser Master Worlds - Day 5

by Pam
Our day started our looking like this ...

We've been wearing full foul weather gear everyday as we pull away from the docks just because of the wind and cold but today, it was for the rain.  It wasn't as cold and the wind settled into the mid teens with a few gusts in the low 20s but we started out wet.  

We ended the day looking like this ...

We even had some moments of honest to goodness sunshine.  One more day of what has been a tough regatta and it's rock, paper, scissors on what tomorrow's weather will bring.

September 13, 2018

Laser Master Worlds - Day 4

by Pam
This is my favorite competitor ... always smiling and always says hello and thank you.
Sitting in the harbor getting ready to head out, our wind meter was steadily climbing into the 20s.  As we motored out of the harbor, it continued to build until we were consistently hitting the 30s.  Sailors were making their way to the race course with minimal tippage but the guys on the boat were wondering aloud if they would start a race in those conditions. 

One of the guys sitting next to me said, 'they say if you can sail in the Irish sea, you can sail anywhere.'  I think he may be right.

After most of the fleet battled their way to the course, the wind died down to the mid teens, the sun came out here and there and the PRO started the sequence almost exactly at noon.  There were a few general recalls but the delays were not too bad and the fleets were off.

My job on the finish boat has ranged from just take some pictures to taking scores with my left hand and snapping random pictures and video with my right.  I only really get to watch the Apprentice and Master fleets go around the course because once they begin finishing, all the fleets seem to come in together.  We've decided the inner loop is shorter than the outer loop.

After the Masters fleet rounded the bottom mark in the first race, I looked back at the start for the Great Grand Masters and they were all gone except for Doug, sitting there all by himself.  Turns out just before the race began, he pulled on the Cunningham and it broke and he couldn't fix it in time and became a spectator.  

Next race, I watched him through binoculars and heard them say on the radio that they got one boat over early and from what I could see it looked like it would be Doug.  Sure enough, at the end of the day, when they posted the scores, he learned that he had just acquired another two throw outs in addition to the two he already had.  And since it appears there is only one throw out for this regatta, this is now a relaxed learning experience and a chance to try various things he's learned recently.  

I'm just thankful I was not watching yesterday when he almost drowned himself, torso dragging through the water, feet still under the hiking strap, not willing to capsize (too cold) but not able to get the boat to come back up.  It gave him a good fright and put all things into perspective.  He is doing his Worlds journal but not sending it out and will eventually publish it.  I don't know if it will be entertaining, enlightening, or kind of sad.  We shall see but like my favorite competitor above, Doug is a happy guy with a wicked sense or humor. 

September 12, 2018

Laser Master Worlds - Day 3

by Pam

There were several Laser Master World's regulars who opted out of the Worlds this year believing that Ireland would be a tough venue. They were right.  But I am glad we are here.

Results, news, and pictures are readily available so there is no need for me to try to provide any of that.  

We are learning that Ireland is not for the weak.  From colds going around to capsizes, rescues, abandoned boats, injuries, and ambulances, there is a whole gamut of emotions but I think humility tops the list for most.  Some are thriving but most are surviving.

A photo was posted by the event photographer, David Branigan (Oceansport), which I thought was a fantastic photo of Brett Beyer leading the pack.  As the last boats were finishing on Tuesday and I had not seen Doug cross the line, I began to panic, bouncing around the boat, frantically searching for him.  Then, he appeared from behind the mast, second to last boat on the course, missing his hat.  I waited patiently for him to finish, he turned and gave me the thumbs up, and I my heart started beating again. Then a picture appeared before me that gave me the giggles.  It was the exact opposite of the Brett photo ... see for yourself.

Beyer - still in top form                    Photo by David Branigan
Peckover - maybe too old for this stuff                                  Photo by a relieved wife
I woke up on Tuesday with my first cold in over two years and then got to sit on the deck of the finish line boat, in the rain, taking scores.  Doug and I used our lay day to actually rest.  We did sneak out to see the sun for a bit today and I tried my first Hot Irish Whiskey which I highly recommend for my fellow cold sufferers.  We have a tour booked after the sailing ends so we'll see the sights then.  

September 10, 2018

Laser Master Worlds - Day 2

by Pam
Today was windy and cold ... but mostly cold. I feel a bit guilty on the finish boat.  It's a nice sized sailboat but the wind is such that we still swing around on the anchor.  We go out on deck up by the masts to take finishes and I admit my hands are shaking by the time we get down below to check the scores with each other.  But the deck time is just a few minutes and the rest of the time, we are treated to hot tea and coffee, hot soup, pastries, lunch, desserts and candy.  I believe we had scones warming in the oven close to the time of the last finish today.  It is by far the most comfortable finish line boat I have ever been on.   

The Apprentice and Masters fleet ran a couple of races and were back on shore, showered, warm, dry and enjoying some hot pasta while the Grand Masters and Great Grand Masters were still screwing around trying to get the second race off.  The GM's are a misbehaved bunch with multiple black flags and general recalls (5, I believe) that left the poor GGM's sailing around for at least an hour waiting for the second race.  It doesn't make sense that guys over 65 and sailing a full rig are made to wait around and be the last to race and the last off the water.  Waiting for a race to start in cold, wet, and windy conditions is just plain brutal.  

As soon as the GM's started the final race, the GGM's started their sequence about a minute later and caught up to the GM fleet by the finish.  Would it be so terrible if the GM fleet had to go to the back of the queue after a general recall and let the older guys get on with it.  When I got to Doug shortly after he came off the water, he was about as cold as I've ever seen him.  His priorities were warm carbs, hot shower, and a nap.  But, it was the night for the North American get together so he only got two out of three.

And now we sleep and do it all over again tomorrow.

September 09, 2018

Laser Master Worlds - Day 1

by Pam
The practice day bought light winds that left some sailors bobbing about on the water and scrambling for a tow in.

Day 1 of racing made the practice day look like the calm before the storm.  As we left the harbor on the finish line boat for the standard course, the wind kicked up and for a moment the wind indicator read 28, then settled into the low 20's as the sailors made their way to the course.  I saw several leave the harbor, sail a little distance toward the start line and then turn around and head back in.  Many on board were already wearing their heavy foul weather gear and there was talk about the upper limits that a Laser could sail and several on board believed that 25 in Ireland would be fairly difficult for a Laser to manage.  

Meanwhile, Brett Beyer went by tuning with a couple of Aussies and all three seemed to be handling the conditions without issue.  As a few gusts came through, some of the Lasers began tipping, including Brett.  At that point, I began to worry about Doug.  But, after what appeared to be a brutal sail to the course start, the wind laid down a bit to a steady 15-20 and the races began.

Apprentice and Masters sailed together in the first start on the outer loop, followed by the Grand Masters sailing the inner loop and finally the Great Grand Masters following on the inner loop.  Just like on the practice day, the timing was such that they all finished about the same time with some of the faster boats in the later starts passing some of the slower boats in the earlier starts.  It was hard to see who was ahead in each fleet except for one.  The first boat around the course, came down the first run with a nice lead.  On the second downwind, he had stretched the lead even further and by the time he hit the bottom reach mark, he was picking up speed and increasing his lead even more as he headed toward the hook to the finish. It was quite impressive to watch. I had recently watched the true story of Secretariat and I swear I could hear the music playing at the end of this clip as this guy came flying toward us.

So who was the racehorse?  One guess ...

Brett Beyer finishing the 1st race with an incredible lead ... second race was almost a carbon copy
He makes it look effortless and he never quits hiking or accelerating until he crosses the line.  The one thing he consistently does is after the last race of the day, he goes right (around the committee boat) and avoids the racing area while virtually everyone else turns left and sails straight into the course of the finishing fleets.  I don't think it is intentional on the part of others, they are just exhausted and want to take the shortest route home to dry land and a hot shower.  However, I always get the feeling that Brett was just getting warmed up and ready to go round again.

As the bulk of the fleet was finishing the last race of the day, even though I could not see the wind indicator, the wind easily kicked up with gusts over 30.  There was flippage and tippage all over the place.  I thought I had my video going on my camera when the 30+ gust came through but it appears when I snapped a photo while recording, I actually turned off the recording.  Oh well ... I think I might get a second chance tomorrow or later this week.

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